By Bernie Bell
In Britain, there used to be a subject taught in schools, called Religious Education. Admittedly, this was very much slanted towards the Christian religion, but, it gave the children something. I’m not one for formalized religion, but I believe that there is a basic need in us humans, for some kind of spirituality – a need to feel some kind of link to a God, or The Universe, or whatever a person wishes to call It. This is understood to be a basic human need, and, if that need isn’t met with, humans tend to feel a void in their existence. The Religious Education taught in school, and a religion practised by parents, at home, at least gave children something. When they reached the age of reason, they could use that reason, to decide if they wanted to stay with that belief system, or change to another, or not have one at all! That would be their choice.
Now, as far as I can tell, it’s all got a bit lost along the way. If ‘religion’ is taught, at all, it’s taught as a subject, like Geography, just the facts and bare-bones, not the actual belief/faith, and, at home, I’m not sure if any kind of belief system plays a part in many people’s lives. This leaves a void, which people feel the need to fill. They sense that there’s something missing, they probably don’t know what, but they sense the gap, and they fill it.
It looks like they attempt to fill it, with material possessions – with ‘stuff’. They go to supermarkets the size of aircraft hangars, and fill their trolleys with stuff that they don’t need, much of which is wasted. They all have the big silver television, and a TV in each room. They have a car each, and numerous holidays each year. And not a little holiday, to the sea-side, it has to be away somewhere exotic. They buy new clothes and household goods, all the time. Mobile phones are one of the worst things – each new gadget or ‘app’ that comes out, they think they have to have a new machine for it.
Rant, rant, rant!
The gap is there, where a basic spirituality needs to be, and people will fill it with whatever comes to hand, or with whatever they are presented with. I think the manufacturers and advertisers, are well aware of this, and direct their products and advertising, at this void in the human soul.
It’s one of the reasons we love living here, on Orkney. There is such a strong link with the ancient folk here, and there is much evidence that they didn’t divide religion and life, they lived it. They saw LIFE in everything. Living their daily life, was imbued with a sense of all being connected, and our daily lives, being directly connected with what’s around us. As many people here are still farmers, and fishers, something of that sense is still here. An acknowledgement of our link with and dependence on, the natural world around us, the seasons, and The Fates. It’s very strong in the work of George MacKay Brown https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mackay_Brown . There is still that sense of connection, here. In a lot of the modern world, it’s been lost. Folk used to have to rely on their senses, to live. They had to be aware of the seasons, of the times to plough, and sow, and reap, and plough again. When the winds meant that it was probably safe to set out in your boat, and when it would be foolish to do so – however much you needed to. They’re not using those senses, and so, they’re losing them, and, in doing so, are losing their senses, in the other meaning of the word, too!
It’s a basic human need – that connection, and a feeling and sense of that connection. They’re losing it, and replacing it with shoddy, plastic, crap. Is it any wonder, that humanity appears to be collectively going a bit nuts?! I do feel that the void is being filled by material things, and, also, by the less well-known religions. Maybe because these religions seem exotic and interesting, many people are turning to them without a real understanding of what they’re about Not really knowing much about them, people go into them, thinking they might hold the answer to what they feel is missing in their life, still looking for a real connection with LIFE.
Many ‘observe’ these religions, in much the same way that they used to ‘observe’ the more familiar religions. They put on certain garments, and do things at certain times, then go home and are mean about their fellow humans, and mean to their fellow humans, and animals. Same old, same old.
Basically, I believe there to be a gap, a void, left by the secularization of life in the West. As I said, I’m not one for formalized religions, look at what they’ve been responsible for, but………..folk need something, they need that connection, that awareness of something other than themselves. If nothing is presented to them to fill this gap, they will pick up on whatever seems most appealing – and I do think that that is becoming more and more to do with material possessions. Then, they find that that feels empty – the dresses they bought yesterday, aren’t so appealing now that they’re not in the shop, and now that they actually own them. So, they buy more, and more, and more. And expect more, and more and more.
The average wedding, in Britain, is now understood to cost around £30,000. What happened to a simple ceremony, with true intentions?
And, yes, it can tend to lead to the folk who say that they have The Answer, The Knowledge, taking on a ridiculous level of influence.
This can also include the cult of celebrity. People who can’t particularly dance, can’t particularly sing, can’t particularly act well, become ‘celebrities’. ‘Ordinary’ people, then follow their every move, and every utterance, on the TV and in the myriad magazines full of their doings. Someone on TOWIE is wearing really big sun-glasses, so we all wear really big sun-glasses. Un-fortunately, it doesn’t stop at sun-glasses, it carries through, to ways of living and treating people, and animals. Dogs as fashion accessories.
And it’s not just that ‘ordinary’ folk place this power on them – those people, often appear to think that they have some kind of God-given right to………everything!
Because they are looking for something, too?
We are endlessly searching, for what is in ourselves. Humanity.
And, a symbol which represented something which mattered, to some ancient peoples – we can’t be sure what exactly it meant to them, but a cycle of life, death and re-birth, makes a lot of sense.